Switching to a Mediterranean diet rich with olive oil strengthens and protects aging bones, scientists claim.
A new study found that just two years of swapping less healthy fats for olive oil may preserve or even build bone in older people.
The Mediterranean diet is thought of as the classic eating habits of people from countries in southern Europe, and has been linked to a variety of health benefits like improving heart health and staving off cancer because it is high in fruit, vegetables, fish, nuts, whole grains and healthy fats like olive oil and low in red meat and dairy products.
Researchers said that the people who eat more olive oil had higher levels of the hormone osteocalcin, a marker associated with strong bones, in their blood.
Past research found that people in Mediterranean countries are less likely to develop osteoporosis compared to people in northern European nations, suggesting that the difference may be related to differences in dietary factors.
Osteoporosis, often called the “silent disease” because there are no symptoms before fracture, but once a person has broken a bone, their risk for breaking another bone increases significantly. It is the most common type of bone disease that leads to a heightened risk of bone fractures because bone mineral density is reduced and bone structure gradually deteriorates.
After two years, the results showed that those on the Mediterranean diet with olive oil had a significant increase in concentrations of osteocalcin and other bone formation markers, while and no other diet in the study showed the same effect.
“The intake of olive oil has been related to the prevention of osteoporosis in experimental and in vitro models,” said lead author Dr. José Manuel Fernández-Real, of Hospital Dr. Josep Trueta in Girona, Spain said in a statement. “This is the first randomized study which demonstrates that olive oil preserves bone, at least as inferred by circulating bone markers, in humans.”
He noted that it was important to note that circulating osteocalcin was associated with preserved insulin secretion in subjects taking olive oil, suggesting that olive oil may also guard against diabetes.